Bonnie and Connie — Double the Blessings, Double the Fun!

My mother and her twin sister will turn 85 years old on Saturday! We will celebrate BIG next weekend at Spring Mill State Park and Inn with them and as many of my siblings and cousins, and their children and grandchildren who can come—around forty of us this year.

Spring Mill is a delightfully picturesque place in southern Indiana. Just driving through the lush, green forested park makes me feel happy and at peace. The Inn itself is old and rustic, lovely and relaxing, and has been the scene of many of our large clan’s family reunions. The twins’ birthday luncheon will be held on Sunday in the beautiful Lakeview Room. We will share in good food and birthday cake, fun games, lots of laughter and sweet memories.

Most of all, though, there will be a spirit of thanksgiving permeating the room as we honor our beautiful mothers. Heartfelt thankfulness to God that we still have both of them with us and that they are able to travel to this special event in their honor. Deepest gratitude for all that they have done for us and been to us through the many years we have been together. True appreciation for the godly examples they have been to their children and grandmothers and for the spiritual heritage they have left for us.

We first did this big Spring Mill celebration of their birthdays five years ago for their 80th. This morning I re-read the account I wrote of that event back then. I’d like to share it with you today because I do not think I could give you a better picture of my mom and Aunt Bonnie if I tried, or what our gala will look like next week. So here, from the archives dated September 12, 2010, is “Great Ladies in Their Eighties.”

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It was a weekend to remember! In my mother’s words, no other weekend could ever surpass it. My aunt (my mother’s twin sister) told me it was her best birthday ever. “Bonnie and Connie’s 80th Birthday Party” at Spring Mill State Park in Indiana was a huge success, especially for the Birthday Girls. Almost all their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there to celebrate with them—over fifty of us altogether. We were happy for our mothers, and excited about spending the weekend with our siblings and cousins and their families.

It is a wonderful thing to see twin sisters make it to their eightieth birthday together. We’ve always enjoyed seeing them together (and yes, indeed, they fooled us sometimes as to who was who), but now they’re just downright cute as a pair! All weekend long we remarked at the likenesses and funny little traits they shared.

Sunday was their birthday and we had a special luncheon to honor them. The Lakeview Room looked out boncon80bon a forest, rather than a lake, but it was pretty with its tables decked in pastels, a fully loaded gift table, and the cake with their pictures at age sixteen as the centerpiece. The food from the Inn’s special Sunday buffet was delicious and plentiful. The company was relaxed, and the fellowship was sweet, and both our Birthday Girls were beaming!

We could not let this special day go by without some spontaneous tributes given by their children, grandchildren and children-in-law. My brother called them the “grand matriarchs of the clan.” Their reputation as pranksters was mentioned. Their love, encouragement, help and generosity were appreciated. They were lauded as wonderful mothers, best friends, special grandmas, and over and over—the best mothers-in-law there ever were! I think what struck me most, however, about these heartfelt, sometimes-teary and sometimes-comical sentiments was how many times Mom and Aunt Bon were referred to as women of faith and prayer. The spiritual heritage they have laid down and their prayerful support of their children and grandchildren had made an impact in all our lives, and helped to make us the people we have become—for now and all eternity. They have been found faithful in the calling God has given them as wives and mothers, and we are all eternally grateful and love them deeply. Proverbs 31:28-31 fits them perfectly: “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:28-31)

It is hard to see our parents growing older. We see them slowing down, suffering from more and more physical ailments, sometimes even suffering mental disabilities. And always looming overhead is the knowledge that we may not have many more years left with them. For those who know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we know that the Separator called Death is but for a short time and then we will be reunited in Heaven some day, but still it is a grievous day when we have to say goodbye. We treasure the days we have left with our mothers and pray for many more years of good health to come.

The Bible tells us to honor our parents and those elderly people around us. Leviticus 19:32 says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Ephesians 6:2-3 reminds us of one of the Ten Commandments: “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou may live long on the earth.” Proverbs 23:22 tells us to “Hearken unto thy father that begot thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.”

Although it may not feel like it sometimes, old age is something to be proud of, and a blessing from the Lord. Many times the Scriptures speak of old age as “a good old age.” And although I have sworn to cover my gray hairs until the day I die (!) gray hair is a badge of honor! Proverbs 16:31 says, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” and Proverbs 20:29 adds, “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” I still have my gray hair, of course, hidden somewhere—I just refuse to look older than my husband!

* With old age come many blessings. Mom and Aunt Bon would tell you (and I agree!) the greatest of these are our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You just can’t comprehend how wonderful it is to be a grandma until you become one yourself! Someone has said that “being a grandmother is your reward for having been a mother.” Someone else has said, “Grandchildren are God’s way of compensating us for growing old.” Whether or not we’ve earned them, the Bible says in Proverbs 17:6, “Children’s children are the crown of old men [and old women!]”

Hopefully, with old age comes wisdom. Job 12:12 tells us “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.” and Job 32:7 adds “…days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.” Old age also comes with promises. Isaiah 46:4 tells us that God does not forget us in our old age, but will carry us through: “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” He is faithful in providing. “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalms 37:25)

God also tells us that He does not set us on a shelf in our old age but that there is still work for Him that we can do. Psalms 92:14 says, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age …” The elderly are to be examples of holy living and teachers. “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.” (Titus 2:2, 3) Prayer and intercession are vital ministries the aged can have. 1 Timothy 5:5 says “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.” The elderly are also a testimony to the generations that follow. Psalms 71:18 tells us, “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” Eunice and Lois are examples of the impact we can have on our children and grandchildren. “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)

It is God who determines the length of our lives. Job 12:10 says, “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” Oftentimes he blesses the righteous and those who are obedient to Him with long life. He said of David in Psalms 91:14, 16, “Because he hath set his love upon me … because he hath known my name…. With long life will I satisfy him…” 1 Kings 3:14 also says, “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments … I will lengthen thy days.” Proverbs 3:1, 2 tells us to “… keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” and adds in Proverbs 9:10, 11, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.”

Psalm 92:12-14 gives us a picture of the beauty of old age in those who love the Lord. It says, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He [or she] shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.” I see beauty in my mother and Aunt Bon, and I know the Lord does, too. What a testimony they are to lives lived for Him and for their families! Many years ago I sent a poem to my grandmother—their mother. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating for it describes my mother and my dear aunt Bonnie—lovely in growing old. I hope I will follow in their footsteps.

Let me grow lovely, growing old—

So many fine things do:

Laces, and ivory, and gold,

And silks need not be new;

And there is healing in old trees,

Old streets a glamour hold;

Why may not I, as well as these,

Grow lovely, growing old?

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The last five years have held serious health problems for both my mother and Aunt Bon, but they are both still sharp as can be and able to live on their own. We cherish the times we have with them, the laughs we share, and the memories we are making. May God continue to bless them in the years they have left here, as He has throughout their long lives—and as He has blessed us in just having them in our lives!

There will be no Sundays with Cindy next week. I’ll be at Spring Mill partying with a couple of great ladies in their eighties!

 

Aren’t They Just GRAND?

I am the grandmother of thirteen beautiful grandchildren. Beautiful, sweet, smart, talented, amazing, loving, Jesus-following, precious kids—and I’m not just bragging! (HA!) Truly, I am blessed beyond measure to be their grandma, and although I have been forced to do my grandmothering from afar (they all live thousands of miles away), we still are very close in heart. There are eight granddaughters (Sara, Gabriela, Anastasia, Melissa, Katie, Hannah, Mandy and Vanessa) and five grandsons (James, Benjamin, Joshua, Matthew and Josiah) ranging in ages from 21 years to 10 months old.

As a family we are a bit unusual—you could say we’re almost a United Nations. My daughter Laura married a man from Ecuador, so their children are half Ecuadoran. Julie married a man who was born in El Salvador and is half El Salvadoran, so their children have Latin blood, as well. Their other three children are adopted—two from the Ukraine, and one who is biracial. The Lord brought us all together in His wonderful plan and we just couldn’t love them all any more than we do! How blessed we are!

Today I want to celebrate two of my granddaughters—Anastasia and Melissa. Their birthdays are five days apart. Anastasia turned seventeen on Wednesday, and Melissa will be fifteen tomorrow. They are turning into beautiful young women, alike in some ways, and very different in others.

This is only the fourth birthday Anastasia has celebrated with us. She made her entrance into our family at the age of thirteen when David and Julie adopted her from an orphanage in Ukraine. Anastasia had been Anastasiathrough many hard, sad things in her life, but since the adoption she has truly blossomed! She gained a new name, a new family, new home and country—and she became a new creation in Christ when she gave her heart to Jesus a few months after she became our granddaughter. There was so much for Anastasia to learn and she has done well in learning English and adapting to her new American life. Other things have been more difficult, but she has a sweet, willing spirit and tries hard to please. Anastasia has a tender heart and is quick to express her love for others and the Lord. She loves to sew and bake, draw and read, and is quick to help with the baby or around the house. She volunteered to clean the church nursery every week—often when the other girls her age are off having fun together. She is friendly and kind and loves to talk! I treasure the little love notes she has given me. It is so awesome that the Lord plucked our sweet Anastasia from a country thousands of miles away and gave her as a gift to our family!

melissa2015And then there is our beautiful Melissa! She, too, was born on another continent where her parents are missionaries in Ecuador. This year is her quinceañera—her fifteenth birthday, a special “coming of age” birthday in the Spanish culture. It is hard to believe our sweet, shy, quiet little Melissa has become a self-assured, mature young woman already! Melissa loves the Lord and has a true servant’s heart. She is often her mama’s right hand. She helps out with the younger children and is a second little mama to them. She is quite talented in directing and producing little plays and videos and photo shoots with her younger siblings. Melissa enjoys baking and cooking and will often whip up a snack or bake a banana bread or cake for the family. I can totally see her someday being an amazing wife and mother in her own home. Melissa loves the beach and is quite the surfer girl! She is Melissa Surfgenerous and giving, sometimes to a fault, and is easy-going and loves to laugh. Melissa loves to talk to her grandma on the phone, too, and share things with me on Facebook and Pinterest. I feel sorry that she has a broken leg and is on crutches this year for her quinceañera—but maybe next year she can celebrate her Sweet Sixteen American style!

What a privilege it is to be the grandmother to these two lovely girls—and to all my grandchildren! To be a grandparent is one of life’s greatest joys—but it is also a responsibility that I do not take lightly. The Bible addresses just what that duty entails. Deuteronomy 4:5, 6, 9  says, See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them…. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding… Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

We love our grandchildren; we laugh at them and enjoy their antics; we bake or sew or crochet for them; and as much as we are able, we join in their fun. These things are our joy, but our responsibility before God is to teach them by word and deed. In word—Psalms 145:4 reminds us “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” In deed—Titus 2:3-5 instructs us to be role models: “ Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

grandchildrenThe apostle Paul gives us the example of Lois, a godly grandmother who played an active role in teaching her young grandson Timothy the Scriptures. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also… But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 1:5; 2:14-15) Timothy went on to be a great pastor and evangelist and through his words and deeds countless multitudes came to know the Lord.

Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children…” I do not believe this is speaking of wealth or real estate or even sentimental tokens, but of a spiritual legacy. Let that inheritance be the teaching and example of a godly grandparent; footsteps in which they may follow; a model of faith and faithfulness to look up to. May our godly testimonies be an encouragement to the generations that follow to come to know and love and serve the Lord as we do. What a glorious family reunion then someday in Heaven!

Proverbs 17:6 says, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged…” I feel like Queen for the Day! So, Happy Birthday, Anastasia and Melissa! I am so very proud of you both, and I thank God that He made me your grandma! You are beautiful blessings to me and I love you!

granddaughter-quotes-8

 

Intensive Care

I like surprises. Well, most surprises. I don’t like to have surprise visitors when I am still in my pajamas, or when I have a sink full of dirty dishes. I don’t like it when my husband springs a surprise on me like “We need new tires on the car today. No, it can’t wait until next month.” I don’t like receiving surprise doctor bills in the mail or unexpected bad news or to find out the ugly truth about something.

I do like surprise parties; little gifts or flowers from my husband “just because”; the exciting news that somebody’s having a baby! I like to unwrap a gift when I don’t have a clue as to what it can be. I love it when one of my grandchildren amazes me with an awesome talent, compassion, wisdom or spiritual insight beyond their years. I would say my life has had far more of the good surprises than it has of the bad. Praise the Lord.

This week we had a bad—a very bad—surprise out of the blue. And then we had a very good surprise.

Thursday started out to be an ordinary day. We’ve delighted in how well our Robbie has been doing in recent months and that day was no exception. He was enjoying listening to his children’s music on his little DVD player and playing with a couple new little toys I had bought him recently. I spent the day getting ready to go to my sister’s in the evening to work on a birthday party we were planning for my mother and her twin sister. I made supper for Bob and Robbie before I left—smothered burritos, one of their favorites. When I left the house, they were about to take a nap before they had their supper.

Cheree and I enjoyed making our supper together at her house and then spent the next hour or two brainstorming ideas for the party. We always enjoy working on projects together and letting the creative juices flow. It seems our two heads are better than one and we giggle and hoot and holler as we feed off each other’s whacky ideas!

It was about 8:30 when Bob called. Robbie was having bad seizures and he was concerned. It is not unusual for Robbie to have grand mals. It was unusual for Bob to be as worried over it as he seemed to be. After discussing it with me, he said he was giving Robbie 20 mg of Valium to try to stop the seizure. That always seems to work with grand mal seizures for Robbie, but 25 minutes later he called again. Robbie was still seizing and he wondered if he should give him another 10 mg. I hesitated. We had never given him that extra dose before. He finally decided to do it and try to get a hold of Robbie’s doctor. I told him I was on my way home.

I was four or five minutes away when Bob called me again. The doctor on call had finally called him back and told him to get Robbie to the emergency room. Bob called an ambulance—there was no way we could get him in his wheelchair or our car with him seizing like that. I walked in a minute or two before the paramedics and was shocked to see how bad Robbie looked. The EMTs had Robbie whisked away in less than a minute. Bob rode in the ambulance with Robbie while I followed behind in the car.

There were seven or eight people working on Robbie when I got there. It was a frightening scene—even though we have been through this before, and deal with seizures on an everyday basis. Finally, they decided to drug him so deeply and put him on a ventilator so that his brain could stop misfiring and get a rest. It was the only way we could stop the seizures at that point. In the past when Robbie had been in “status” condition before (unstoppable seizures) he had been on a ventilator for weeks and in the hospital for a month at a time.

We were in a state of shock. How could this have happened so suddenly? He has been doing so beautifully in the last few months. We had even seen little miracles along the way—Robbie eating and drinking by mouth after 14 years of being tube-fed; Robbie taking steps, standing and crawling; Robbie using more signs to communicate and shades of the old, mischievous scamp he had once been. Robbie’s back! everyone exclaimed in delight.

We were stunned—unsure of how this could have happened and then wondering what did it mean? Would we be back in the hospital for another month? Would there be more brain damage? Would we be back to square one with the tube feedings and a totally bedridden and drugged up child? He was now in critical condition and in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit. All we could do was pray, leaving Robbie in the Lord’s hands, and wait for some answers.

We did not have long to wait. That was the other surprise—the good surprise. By Saturday morning the seizures had stopped completely and they were able to take Robbie off the ventilator. He had developed a bit of pneumonia due to aspirating either when he was seizing or when they intubated him, but it had disappeared from the x-rays by Saturday morning, as well! He was grinning from ear to ear at us and eager to listen to his music on his DVD player and play with his toys. And he was a little feisty, too—a sure sign he was feeling better and on the mend! For him to go from critical to happy, happy, happy in 36 hours was nothing short of an astonishing miracle to us!

As I sat in that intensive care unit, I couldn’t help but think how intense God’s care is of us. When we are frightened, He brings peace. When we are enveloped in worry and stress, He soothes us with His comforting embrace. When we feel helpless and alone, He promises to walk beside us. When we are hurting, He heals our spirits with His love. I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” All we have to do is give our cares to Him and rest in His intensive care.

When I think of God’s loving care I think of Psalm 23. The Lord is my Shepherd, the One who tenderly provides, protects, guides, soothes, saves, comforts, supports, gives joy and mercy and blessing, and finally takes us safely Home. That is intense love and care!

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

 

Robbie will most likely go home from the hospital today or tomorrow. What a happy surprise to go home so quickly and with a child who is no worse for the experience. We are praising God for His loving care for Robbie—and for us. It is only when we go through the worst in life that we fell the comfort and love and care of the Lord most intensely—and we thank Him for that.

Psalm 23

What It’s Not

Have you ever had a day—or a week—when nothing went right? When Murphy’s Law was in effect and everything that could go wrong, did? I’m sure you have. We all experience times when we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even a natural optimist can begin to wonder when that little rain cloud seems to be just hovering over her head.

Our daughter Laurie and her family have been going through just such a week. It started small on Thursday. One of the kids pulled the curtains—rod and all—down, right out of the wall. No big deal, right? Those things happen with little kids. They were just dealing with that, however, when they found signs that a mouse had visited their couch. Yuck! That was a big deal for Laurie. Mice, rats, tarantulas, scorpions—all manner of nasty critters have invaded their home in Ecuador from time to time and it always freaks them out. Mice carry diseases down there and Laurie feels like she has to disinfect everything when she finds the telltale signs of a mouse in the house.

She was just dealing with that when an even bigger calamity happened. The younger kids had gone outside to play and were calling for their big sister Melissa to come out and play with them. Melissa will be fifteen in a couple weeks and is so good with the little ones and very willing to help with them. She started out the door to join them and somehow slipped on the step—and broke her leg.

Laurie called Fernando home from the Bible study he was having with a young couple to take Melissa to the hospital. They ended up having to go to two different hospitals to finally have their daughter taken care of. They had just walked in the door at home hours later with Melissa in a cast when the baby, Vanessa who is twenty months old, started throwing up and having diarrhea.

It lasted for hours. They were just beginning to think maybe they should take her to the hospital when it finally slowed down and she fell asleep around four in the morning. They worried—Vanessa had been sitting on the couch where they found the mouse droppings. Had she picked up something and put it in her mouth??? She seemed to feel a little better later, however, when she woke up, and although she had a couple more small bouts, by last night she had perked up and it seemed to be over.

Not quite. No sooner was Vanessa finally over it when Matthew and Mandy started in, and poor Melissa in her cast was beginning to feel sick. So much for the question about the mouse poop (thank goodness!)—it seemed to be just an ordinary virus of some sort if it was going through the kids one by one. But that was just the thing—with seven kids and Fernando and Laurie, was it going to hit them all? Laurie was already wading through a growing mountain of laundry and had had to scrub the floors several times when one of the little ones “missed.”

Well, sure enough, I called this morning to see how things were and Melissa, and now Fernando, too, had been up all night sick. Laurie herself is feeling bad and wondering if she is about to succumb. Only Sara, Gabi and Katie are left standing and able to chase Vanessa now that she is well. Of course, Fernando was supposed to teach and preach this morning, but praise the Lord, yesterday one of the men in the church had offered to fill in and was prepared if the need should arise.

I’ve been sitting here at home feeling bad for them all and wishing I could be there to help. They have been through so much lately and I know, because they are serving the Lord there in Ecuador and the ministry is going well, they are targets for the Enemy, Satan. He would like nothing more than for them to be discouraged and weak. As I prayed for the baby—and Laurie—though that first night, the thought came to me to praise God for what it was not. It was not chemotherapy that was making the baby throw up so violently. There was no cancer or some other terrible disease that was making the baby so violently ill. Other parents have seen their children suffer through much worse. In a day or two she was over it.

Praise God Melissa’s broken leg was not a bad one. The first doctor had said she needed surgery and a pin put in it but Laurie and Fernando had seen the x-ray.   They recognized that he was a shyster and took her to the second hospital where they said it was a simple “fissure”, put a cast on it and sent her home. Praise God for healthy children who can run and jump and play. In six weeks Melissa will be back to normal.

Praise God Laurie does not have to take all the dirty sheets and towels and pajamas down to the river bank to wash them as so many of the Indian women do. She has a washer and dryer. Praise God they are not all sick at once. Praise God they are not alone—Ivan volunteered to preach before they even knew that Fernando would be sick.

When we have days or weeks like this, it is easy to become disheartened. It is precisely in times of discouragement and weakness, however, that we should most be praising God! Psalm 42:11 says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Our hope is in Him. He knows all about it. He is in control and there are His perfect reasons for allowing us to go through these trying times. David the Psalmist said in Psalms 71:14, “But I will hope continually, and will yet praise Thee more and more.” David knew what it meant to go through testing and trials but he said in Psalm 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.”

It is easy to praise God when everything is beautiful and going well; not so easy when it is not. The Bible tells us in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Paul and Silas praised God in prison! They had been beaten and whipped, thrown into the deepest, darkest cell with their feet in chains—yet “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts16:25) Not only did they praise God, but they did it loudly so that everyone heard them! What a testimony! In fact they were such a testimony that it ultimately resulted in the salvation of their prison guard and all his household!548481_263860493730592_1010457336_n

When we count our blessings, let us thank and praise Him for the good and the bad; for what has happened and what has not. Did that delay in traffic save us from an accident down the road? Did the financial loss we suffered save us from becoming independent of God? Did the discovery if one physical problem save us from a more serious one up ahead? It is by God’s mercy that we are saved from far more than we will ever know. Praise God for what is not. “Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 106:1

Hebrews 13:15 says, “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” In everything continually we ought to praise God—for what is and what is not! The next time you count your blessings, don’t forget to thank Him for what it’s not.

                                              Count Your Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will keep singing as the days go by.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small, Do not be disheartened, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

                                         –Johnson Oatman, Jr.–

The Table of Blessing

Yesterday was our forty-fifth wedding anniversary! It’s kind of a milestone anniversary, isn’t it? It seems that the more anniversaries we have, the more “special” each one feels. My grandma and grandpa made it to forty-six before Grandpa went to be with the Lord. Not quite to their fiftieth, and I suppose that made me realize that we cannot take it for granted that we will make it to our Golden Anniversary. Next year we will tie with Grandma and Grandpa, the Lord willing, and then I guess I will feel like we really made it!

Yes, Number Forty-Five felt very special to me—and a little sad, as well. It is at times like these that I really, really miss having all my children and grandchildren around me. Laurie’s family is in Ecuador and Julie’s is in California. Oh, I know they are right where the Lord wants them, doing His work and being used by Him. I can be—no, I am—content with that, but when there are special events that cry out to be celebrated together as a family, it seems very lonely without them.

Bob and Robbie and I went out to a restaurant to eat, and we enjoyed ourselves. Robbie loved being in a new place with lots to look at, and lots of new people to smile at, and best of all—lots of good food! Bob and I enjoyed just watching Robbie enjoy it all! Seeing the joy and wonder on his face at these new experiences, his eager anticipation as he watched waitress after waitress march by with loaded trays and then chuckling as his expressive face began to read, Hey-where’s mine? as he tried to patiently wait; and finally that satisfied, stuffed little piggy look when he had eaten the last morsel of good food! We just had to laugh—after all those years, watching Robbie begin to enjoy life again brings joy and wonder to us!

But still—we were only three around the table. We were missing our girls and their husbands and our thirteen grandchildren. Oh, we talked to them on the phone yesterday—or rather, I should say, they sang to us on the phone (love it!)—but I missed their presence around the table on this celebration of the founding of our family.

Something happened, though, this week that was a promise of future family festivities together! Just the Dining%20Collection_2100-04-TB6x2190-04-S-bday before our anniversary, the Lord blessed us with a beautiful oak dining table and chairs—perfect for our country kitchen! A friend of a friend was giving it away and Terri thought of us right away and called to ask if we would like it. Bob rented a van to go get it, and before you knew it, an unexpected blessing was gracing our kitchen and all I could think of was the next time all my little grandchildren would be gathered around that table and the ruckus and laughter and fun there would be!

There are twenty of us now when all our children and grandchildren are here with us—two more than the last time! With the new table and chairs, we will be able to squeeze all of us around the dining room and kitchen tables. Oh, sure it would be nice to have all twenty of us around one long table, but truthfully, it’s better that the wild and crazy bunch have their party in the kitchen! We adults enjoy hearing the silliness and uproar emanating from the kitchen—and have to admit, thankful that it is out there! Oh-oh! Now that I think of it, I just realized that by the time they all get home next year we will have a 22 year old, two 19 year olds, an 18 year old, 17 year old, two 16 year olds—how old is too old for the kids’ table??

As I was picturing the happy times together with my all my family gathered together around the table(s), I couldn’t help thinking of Psalm 128, Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways.  For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. (vs. 1-4) From the founding of our family forty-five years ago we have tried to center our lives and home around the Lord. We have not always been perfect, but we do love and honor and serve Him and He has blessed us with children, and now grandchildren, who love him and honor Him, as well.

I love the picture of our children  (and grandchildren) flourishing like young, fruitful olive plants around our table, blossoming and budding, fresh and promising as they grow in Him. I like the way the Living Bible paraphrases it, Your wife shall be contented in your home. And look at all those children! There they sit around the dinner table as vigorous and healthy as young olive trees.

What more could we ask for? Of course it is nice to be blessed with material possessions like our new dining set, but our truly greatest blessing on this earth is to see our children and grandchildren growing UnseenGuestand flourishing in the Lord. Yes, there is fun and laughter around our table when we are together, but there are many a conversation centered around Him as well. What a joy to share in His Word and the blessings and burdens of our hearts! What a blessing to hear the kids chime in with questions or spiritual observations of their own.

Forty-five years and counting! Twenty in the family—and still counting as Generation 3 grows up and someday soon will be starting families of their own. May we all flourish and grow in Him—and love each other around the table!

Be present at our table, Lord.

Be here and everywhere adored.

 

Dear John

Have you ever written a Dear John letter? I can’t say that I ever have, but I have heard of them. You Dear John 1know—the kind of letter where you tell your boyfriend, “Adios, Amigo! Buh-bye! Hasta la vista, baby!” These days, I suppose, it would be a Dear John e-mail or, if you’re really hard-hearted, a Dear John tweet.

Well, I wrote my first Dear John letter this week—but it’s not what you may be thinking! Actually, my pastor asked me to write it! He is beginning a new series of messages from the book of I John and asked me to write a “Dear John” letter as an introduction to each of his messages—a letter that might be written by a typical person in the pew in these contemporary days to the apostle John. Each letter is from the perspective of imaginary Christians from different demographics. Pastor will ask someone who fits the demographic that week to read the letter as if it was their own words as the introduction to his message. This week’s letter was supposed to be from an active church mom who feels like she’s just going through the motions of her faith and feels like something is missing in her spiritual life. Well, here—I’ll let you read it for yourself:

Dear John,

Well, this has been a crazy week—as usual! I can’t believe here it is Sunday again. The days fly by so quickly and I wonder when I finally fall into bed at night if I’ve really accomplished anything. My list of things to do seems never-ending! Between my husband, the kids and all their activities, the house, my job and church—well, sometimes I feel like I am just spinning my wheels trying to get it all done.

Church. Hmm, I’m busy in my church, singing in the choir, teaching kids and helping wherever I can.   I’m there every time the doors are open. I mean, church has just been a part of my life since I was a little girl and asked Jesus into my heart way back then. But, John, lately I feel like I am just going through the motions in my faith, as well. Church sometimes feels to me like just another thing on my list of activities, just another place to socialize, just another responsibility. Remember the old chorus “There is Joy in Serving Jesus”? Where is that joy? And where is the joy of worship? Why isn’t it more satisfying? Other Christians I know seem to be doing just fine, but I feel a little—empty sometimes.

And it’s not just at church, either. I hate to admit this, but even at home my personal Bible-reading and prayer is just hit or miss most of the time. I used to be excited about the things of the Lord. What’s happened? Something is missing in my spiritual life.

John, it’s hard to say this, but I’m even beginning to wonder if I really am a Christian…

Love,

Marissa

I don’t know exactly what our pastor will preach today, but I can certainly feel for poor Marissa—can’t you? We probably have all been there to some extent or another in our spiritual lives. That feeling that we’ve become so busy in the matters of life that the things of the Lord kind of get shoved to the back burner. Oh, maybe we’re involved in church but there is a difference between being busy in church activities and responsibilities and being focused on our relationship with the Lord and having a healthy spiritual life.

Pastor is preaching from I John today, but I want to look at an old familiar passage we find in the book of Luke. Verses 38 – 42 recount the story of Mary and Martha:

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

I’ve always felt a little sorry for Martha, especially since I have been on the serving end of hospitality many, many times throughout my adult life. I mean, somebody had to feed all those men, right? It’s not like they could simply call out for pizza delivery when thirteen men suddenly dropped in on them! It was a huge task to whip up a meal from scratch, and I am sure Martha wanted to serve her best to the Lord. Of course she needed help. Of course she felt stressed and harried. I know how I would feel in a situation like that!

It wasn’t that Martha was grumbling about having company suddenly thrust upon her, or that she was being inhospitable. Verse 38 says that Martha welcomed Jesus—and his disciples—into her home. I am sure she felt honored to have Him there. She loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him. But it was a big, stressful job—and there sat her sister, not helping at all. I would be a little—no, a lot—peeved, too!

toobusy2We often hear it said that Jesus rebuked Martha. I don’t see it that way. I think Jesus was sympathetic to her. He knew how big the job was to prepare a meal for all those men. He knew that she wanted to do her best for Him. I’m sure He knew that she loved him and her hospitality was an extension of that love.   I can just hear his voice when He acknowledged, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.” It was a voice of sympathy and love for her, not a harsh retort of “Get over it, woman!”

But Jesus had to speak the truth, as well. He was appreciative of the meal she was preparing and the love with which it was offered. The truth was, however, that there are some things of vast more importance than earthly food; things that say “I love you, Lord!” far better than busyness and material giving. There are things that rob us of the joy in serving Jesus and giving to Him. Jesus was not extolling or praising Mary above Martha. He was simply saying that Mary had made a better choice in sitting at His feet—a choice that had eternal value. Earthly food could have waited. Spiritual food, the Bread of Life—He, Himself—was the better choice. And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) Hunger pangs will come again very quickly, but He is the one who satisfies eternally.toobusy4

We get so busy in this earthly life serving the Lord that, like Martha, sometimes we just neglect to sit at His feet. We may be totally involved in serving in our church or busy in some other ministry and we equate that with having a right relationship with Him. We minister to our families, we give to others, we run ourselves ragged sometimes and we lose the joy and fulfillment there is in simply walking with Him. We forget to simply worship. We do not sit at the feet of the Master to learn and be filled with Him. We’re too busy.

No wonder we sometimes feel as though we are just going through the motions and our spiritual life is not as satisfying and joyful as it once was. Take time to sit at Jesus’ feet—putting Him and your relationship with Him above everything else. Serving is good and necessary, but it should not come before time spent with Him in His Word and in prayer and worship. When we are too busy for that, we are too busy.

God wants our attention. He cares more about our hearts’ devotion than the busy work of our hands. He does not want us to get so busy for Him that we are too busy for Him. Martha was a good woman. She simply got her priorities mixed up. Let’s be careful not to do the same. Let us put Jesus and our relationship with Him first. Everything that is important will fall into place then afterwards.

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Party Crashers!

Something happened to me yesterday that was a once-in-forty-years, red letter, let the party begin, very special event! I attended a mini-reunion within a reunion and met up with three of my closest friends from way back—way, way back—in the 1970’s! Marilyn, Dottie, Pat and I attended a little church in the country together all those decades ago when we were young moms in our twenties, raising our kids, serving the Lord at Faith Baptist Church, and supporting and encouraging one another along the way. Life happens, though, and one by one our families had moved away and we lost touch.

You have to hand it to Facebook, though—it has a way of bringing old friends back together again! Fast forward to now—we’re four grandmas (Pat’s even a great-grandma!) and we couldn’t have been more thrilled to be reunited! I have to confess—we actually had to crash a party to make it happen! (Yeah, I know—just call me a wild thing!) Dottie lives in South Carolina now, but she had organized a reunion for the church she had attended before she went to Faith Baptist Church. When we heard she was going to be in the area we wanted to get together, but the only time she could do it was actually during the church’s reunion. It was important to us, though (so important that Pat drove all the way from Ohio to join us!) so, crash the party we did and had our own little reunion within their bigger one! We could just see the wheels turning inside some people’s heads as they tried to recall who we were. I even got a few “What are you doing here?” remarks from some people who knew I had never attended their church. I must admit—I gleefully confessed to being a party crasher!

The craziest, funniest part of it all, though, was how the four of us looked at one another and in awe, assured each other, “Wow! Can you believe it? Here we are in our sixties and early seventies and none of us have changed a bit! oldladies6We all still look just the same!” A moment later, “Hmm,” I asked them, “What does that mean? Either we all look fabulous—or forty years ago we were pretty haggard and old for our age!” Today, looking at the pictures we took yesterday, I still think they all look wonderful and unchanged—but I definitely look forty years older and not quite so fabulous!

It was fun; it was heart-warming; it was good hearing all about their children and grandchildren; it was sad hearing about all the really hard trials in life they’ve been through—deaths, very serious illnesses, broken relationships and so many other struggles. I’ve had my own difficult times over the years, but it seemed to me that they all had had much heavier burdens to bear than I had. It made me feel sad, too, that I had let my friendships with these wonderful women fall by the wayside when I should have been there to help bear the burdens.

Life gets busy. We become insulated with the cares of our own small family. We get stressed out with too many things on our plate. And these days people don’t always stay in one small hometown, but often move far away, and maybe not just once, but several times. It is easy to let time and distance and circumstances tear us away from the old friends we once held dear. Why, many of us have even gotten away from the annual Christmas letter that at least helped us touch base once a year. On the other hand, we now have Facebook and Twitter and other social media that enable us to stay in touch easily with friends and family on a weekly, even daily, basis if we so choose. But that’s just it—we have to choose to keep those friendships alive and well—and fabulous!

Friendship is important. It is one of the relationships God gives us here on earth to make our journey through life easier, strengthened, and much more—fun! God’s Word tells us that a true friend is:

A true friend is always thereThis is where I have failed so many times. I love my friends. I am loyal to them and would always stand beside them for support and behind them for strength, but in order to do that you have to be present. Oh, not necessarily present physically. We can’t always do that when hundreds, or even thousands of miles separate us. But we can always pick up the phone, or write a note or an e-mail, or help with a need when we know of it. Just letting that friend know that I am still thinking of her; still interested in what is going on in her life; still love and care about her—that is how to keep a friendship alive. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” Be present. The next chapter goes on to say, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) Be loyal.

I admire my sister Cheree. She is a wonderful friend and has many friends, all from different seasons of life and times and places where she has been. She treasures those friendships and gets together regularly with old friends from high school, from different jobs she has held, from different places she’s lived and different churches she attended. Where I have often been guilty of letting friendships slip away due to neglect, she has nurtured her friendships and seen them last for decades. She is obeying Proverbs 27:10 which says, “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend.” Be there.

A true friend is there to encourage and edify. Friends ought to help one another grow. We should strengthen one another and encourage each other. Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” In other words, we stimulate one another to growth and improvement and maturity. Fun and laughter in a friendship is great, but we need to be ready to help each other with godly counsel and encouragement, as well. I think Proverbs 27:9 is a beautiful verse. It says, “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s Friendship-Quotes-4friend gives delight by hearty counsel.” A true friend should be willing to give, and to receive, godly counsel. A true friend will share from the heart in love and with the motivation to help, not hurt. Proverbs 27:6 tells us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Honest counsel and constructive criticism is hard to give sometimes, and equally hard to receive, but when it is shared in love and with the correct motivation, we must not be afraid of it.

 

A true friend is there to share in life. Life is a journey and God has given us family and friends to help us along the way. We share the work. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.” A heavy load carried by two is much easier than trying to bear the weight all alone. That is true of the emotional and spiritual burdens we bear as well. We all need a shoulder to lean on—or even cry on—from time to time. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We need to be available, ready and willing, to bear the burdens of our friends. Just being there with a listening ear, a comforting hug, a soothing word can mean the world. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” (Romans 12:15) We sometimes share in the tears of our friends, but how wonderful when we can share in the joys, as well! To have a friend on the other end of the phone jumping up and down and doing the happy dance right along with us! Our road on life’s pathway is never easy. It has its ups and downs, its twists and turns, but the journey is so much easier when shared with a friend!

John 15:3 tells us what the true love of a real friend is, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  Jesus, of course, was that True Friend who laid down his life for us.  That was a sacrificial love. We will most likely not be called upon to die for our friends, but we can still exhibit that sacrificial love for one another in being willing to give up some time, expend some effort, share what we have in order to nurture our friendships. I am sorry I have not been a better friend. I am happy and thankful that my friends forgive me for that and are willing to accept me despite my shortcomings.

I gave credit to Facebook earlier in getting us all in touch again, but really the praise goes to God.  He made us sisters in Christ with a bond that will last for all eternity, and He brought us all together again yesterday.  I thank Him for that!  And thank you, Marilyn, Dottie and Pat for a beautiful day yesterday and the many happy memories we share. I love you all and you really are—fabulous!

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